February 14th is Valentines Day and it’s also Oregon’s state birthday. Show your love for others and Oregon with these fun-to-make “I Heart Oregon” sugar cookies. Kids love being in the kitchen and baking, and this is a great family project for a rainy February day. You can give them away as valentines or fun birthday presents for your fellow Oregonians! Check out “I Heart Oregon” for more fun gift ideas.
Kids are naturally curious about cooking, and instilling lifelong healthy eating habits starts with learning your way around the kitchen. Consider your child’s unique temperament and capabilities when guiding him or her through this recipe. The key is to be patient and aim to have making these cookies a fun, positive experience. It’s less about how the cookie looks at the end and more about the fact they did it. Here are some age appropriate tips for successful baking with kids.
· Children ages 2-5 are developing motor skills and tend to have shorter attention spans. Try pre-measuring ingredients in this recipe, and have kids pour them into the bowl. They will need lots of assistance kneading and rolling the dough. They will love “stamping” the cookie cutters into the shape of Oregon and frosting the cookies.
· Children ages 6-8 have developed fine motor skills and longer attention spans. With your help, they can measure out ingredients and follow instructions. With close and constant supervision kids in this age group are ready to use the electric mixer. They will need assistance kneading and rolling the cookie dough into an even thickness and sifting the powdered sugar. They will eagerly use cookie cutters and frost cookies, and will likely choose to decorate them in their own style.
· Pre-teens ages 9-12 will gain confidence in the kitchen following this recipe and preparing most of steps with minimum parental direction, including cleaning up. Parents may choose to assist by putting in and removing the cookies from the oven, or let their older children do it with close supervision.
For the dough:
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
• ½ teaspoon salt
For the icing:
• 2 egg whites
• 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
• 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• Warm water for thinning if too thick
• Green gel food coloring
To prepare cookies:
1. In a large bowl, blend together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
2. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix just until blended.
3. Add the flour and salt, and mix until it forms a dough.
4. Divide the dough in half and form two balls. Wrap them both in plastic and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
5. Remove 1 ball of dough from refrigerator and knead into a disc on a lightly floured surface.
6. Roll the dough out evenly to a ¼” thickness with a rolling pin.
8. Place cutouts on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
9. Repeat with the second dough ball.
10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
11. Refrigerate the cutouts for 30 minutes before baking.
12. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until the edges are very lightly brown.
13. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
14. Decorate the cookies once they’ve cooled for at least 30 minutes.
To prepare icing:
1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer until combined.
2. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until combined, smooth, thick and fluffy
3. Add vanilla extract.
4. Divide 1/3rd of your frosting into a small bowl and add in the green food coloring.
5. Bring to desired consistency with a small splash of warm water and use immediately.
6. Fill a pastry bag fitted with the larger tip (No. 5) with the plain white icing. If you don’t have a pastry bag, fill a freezer bag with white icing and cut a small corner off the bag for “the tip.”
7. Pipe the lining on the outsides of the cookie, and then fill in with the white icing. You can spread it out with your tip or a flat butter knife.
8. Once the white base has dried, prepare your pastry bag with the smaller tip (No. 3) and spoon in the green icing. If you don’t have a pastry bag, fill a freezer bag with green icing and cut a small corner off the bag for “the tip.”
9. Pipe on your green hearts and voila!
Cookies are a treat and taste even better when served with Oregon grown fruits, like pears, our state fruit